Principles for urban stormwater management to protect stream ecosystems

Freshwater Science
By: , and 

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Abstract

Urban stormwater runoff is a critical source of degradation to stream ecosystems globally. Despite broad appreciation by stream ecologists of negative effects of stormwater runoff, stormwater management objectives still typically center on flood and pollution mitigation without an explicit focus on altered hydrology. Resulting management approaches are unlikely to protect the ecological structure and function of streams adequately. We present critical elements of stormwater management necessary for protecting stream ecosystems through 5 principles intended to be broadly applicable to all urban landscapes that drain to a receiving stream: 1) the ecosystems to be protected and a target ecological state should be explicitly identified; 2) the postdevelopment balance of evapotranspiration, stream flow, and infiltration should mimic the predevelopment balance, which typically requires keeping significant runoff volume from reaching the stream; 3) stormwater control measures (SCMs) should deliver flow regimes that mimic the predevelopment regime in quality and quantity; 4) SCMs should have capacity to store rain events for all storms that would not have produced widespread surface runoff in a predevelopment state, thereby avoiding increased frequency of disturbance to biota; and 5) SCMs should be applied to all impervious surfaces in the catchment of the target stream. These principles present a range of technical and social challenges. Existing infrastructural, institutional, or governance contexts often prevent application of the principles to the degree necessary to achieve effective protection or restoration, but significant potential exists for multiple co-benefits from SCM technologies (e.g., water supply and climate-change adaptation) that may remove barriers to implementation. Our set of ideal principles for stream protection is intended as a guide for innovators who seek to develop new approaches to stormwater management rather than accept seemingly insurmountable historical constraints, which guarantee future, ongoing degradation.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Principles for urban stormwater management to protect stream ecosystems
Series title Freshwater Science
DOI 10.1086/685284
Volume 35
Issue 1
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher University of Chicago Press
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Leetown
Description 14 p.
First page 398
Last page 411